Data Layer, Meet Data Layer Validation

February 15, 2017 Dan Reno

Data layer validation is a key component to accomplishing an effective tag governance strategy.

As Jason Call stated in his introductory blog post to the data layer,

“A data layer is a piece of code that is a repository for structured data. It is a JavaScript object or variable that gathers and redistributes your most essential data to all the vendors in your MarTech stack.”

For those of you who have implemented a data layer, you did so because you wanted to:

  1. Standardize data across marketing technologies.
  2. Maintain consistent data collection despite changes to HTML structure.
  3. Reduce development time for implementing new technologies.

To accomplish this, it’s important to stay in the know of whether or not your data layer is being populated with the correct values. Data layer validation is included as part of the ObservePoint platform. ObservePoint supports the naming of a single data layer object per domain. Setup is simple, it’s just a matter of defining your JavaScript object when configuring a domain.

Here are the steps to set up data layer validation in the ObservePoint platform:

Steps to Setup

1. Identify your data layer

There are a couple ways you can identify your data layer, listed below:

Talk with your developers

There may be multiple “data layer” type objects in use on your site(s). It pays to use the correct one the first time. Considerations should include identifying “out-of-the-box” objects associated with tag management solutions, as well as custom objects.

Find it yourself

Avoid assuming your data layer object goes by a specific name. You can use your browser's developer tools to try and find the object based on common names. To do so, open the console and type in the object name. If it exists, it should autocomplete for you. Press the “Tab” key to autocomplete. Below are several examples of data layer object names and output for reference:

  • Object name = dataLayer (Google Tag Manager)
  • Object name = digitalData (W3C Standard)
  • Object name = _hddata (custom object)

2. Either:

a. Set up a new domain for data layer validation

Inside the ObservePoint web application, there is a “Create New” button at the top left. Click this button and select “Domain.” A modal will appear that looks like this: 

  1. Select a folder, or create a new folder.
  2. Name this web property.
  3. Add the domain, including the protocol.
  4. Enter the object name. JavaScript objects are case sensitive, so double check to make sure the object name is written correctly.
  5. Save your settings.

b. Edit an existing domain to include the data layer

  1. Open the folder containing the targeted domain.
  2. Find the domain to which you want to add a data layer. Click the three dots in the upper right-hand corner of this domain.
  3. Enter the object name and save your settings.

Special Notes

  1. Some common object names are:
    1. digitalData – W3C
    2. dataLayer – Google Tag Manager
    3. utag_data – Tealium
  2. Setting up a data layer is optional. If no object name is defined, the domain, and all audits or simulations contained therein, default to “digitalData,” which is the W3C standard for data layer objects.
  3. Dot syntax is supported. For example, if your data layer is a member of a larger object, best practice is to limit the definition to the portion of the object that is specific to that purpose. An example of this is Adobe Activation’s default data layer, _satellite, which is a large, system-generated object that contains more than just digital consumer data. Use dot syntax to select only the portion specifically defined for data layer usage.
  4. Avoid large objects in general. While even large objects are supported, it makes reporting and understanding that data difficult. Variables should be specific to your vendor tag implementations. If more than that is contained therein, the utilization of that object of data layer usage should be reconsidered.


Reporting for data layer details is similar to that of tags, in which variables are scanned from the object with values aggregated and reported on a per page basis. Once the domain settings have been updated, reporting details for the data layer can be found in the following locations:

Audit Reports:

  • Web Audits > Variables > Variable Summary > Data Layer
  • Web Audits > Tags > Tag Summary > Data Layer
  • Tag Reports > (All reports)
  • Compliance Reports > Business Compliance (if set)
  • Simulations:

Journey Reports:

  • [Steps] > Tags (tab)

The Future of the Data Layer

The data layer plays a key role that will not be going away anytime soon. As such, ObservePoint is already planning future updates to enhance the functionality to simplify and automate the setup and monitoring process. We look forward to sharing these updates with you in the not too distant future.


About the Author

Dan Reno

Much of Dan's career has been centered around the online analytics world. He loves digging into data that drives decisions for online business and supporting systems, and he is passionate about data quality. When he's not sifting through data, you’ll likely find Dan somewhere getting his hands dirty. He doesn't mind getting grease under his fingernails while working on a classic car or an off road vehicle (he especially loves old Land Cruisers).

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